In 2019, the Forest Protection Section (FPS) has conducted 27 prescribed burns that treated 6,836 acres of potentially hazardous forest fuels. Working in conjunction with the Fire and Emergency Services Division, the FPS has responded to 45 wildfires that burned a total of 4,433 acres.
Prescribed burning is the process of planning and applying fire to a predetermined area under specific environmental conditions in order to achieve a desired outcome. On Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the forest ecosystem is fire dependent, meaning it needs these fires to remain healthy.
“Our prescribed burns are conducted to reduce hazardous fuel loading around the ranges and training areas so the Marines can safely train,” said John Mangus, fire management specialist on MCB Camp Lejeune. “It is much safer to burn the fuels with prescribed fire than it is to wait for a wildfire to burn the fuels on a day when extreme fire behavior and catastrophic consequences are possible.”
Wildfires put troop welfare at risk and suppress training operations for extended periods of time. Prescribed burns are conducted under specific weather and environmental conditions where effects from fire will be positive rather than negative and are scheduled for periods of time when the ranges are not being used for training.
According to Mangus, a wildfire has occurred on almost every acre of Camp Lejeune at one time or another. Any time fuels are dry enough to burn, an ignition source can start a wildfire. With prescribed fire, the most common areas are around the training ranges, as this is where the Marines use most of the high energy ignition sources that will start wildfires.
“The forest area around the training ranges is our first priority for prescribed burning,” Mangus said. “Our second priority is habitat restoration in training areas that have high fuel loading.”
Prescribed burning reduces hazardous fuels and minimizes the threat of potentially catastrophic wildfires coming off the ranges. Once an area is treated with prescribed fire, it is nearly “fire-proof” for one year.